Northern Virginia is getting serious with its desire for young, bright minds. Recent efforts show that when the region’s authorities say they want as much tech talent as possible, they mean it.

For them, the equation of economic growth is crystal clear: Companies hold the key to the future. The primary characteristic that companies look for to invest in a certain location is if it has promising high-tech professionals.

“There was a time when companies didn’t talk about the workforce, they talked about locations. Now they are asking: ‘Where is the talent?’” says Anne Kress. Kress is the president of Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), in a February 10th report by the Washington Post.

Quality Education, E-Campaigns, Sponsorship’s

The region’s counties and cities are collectively joining hands where universities play a key role to lure talent.

Virginia Tech and George Mason University (GMU) are expanding tech education programs and engaging industry players, offering students on-site experience.

Virginia Tech’s plan to complete its $1 billion Innovation Campus in Alexandria, for instance, is in full swing. There, inaugural classes will start no later than this fall. The university hopes to add at least 2,000 more undergraduate students studying computer science and computer engineering here. Likewise, GMU plans to expand its Arlington campus and triple the number of master’s degrees in various technology fields.

Kress’ NVCC has played its part by introducing a specialization in cloud computing. One of that program’s strongest assets is that it includes an apprenticeship with Amazon Web Services. Among other programs that it teaches are those on biotechnology, cybersecurity, and network engineering with similar university-industry collaborations.

Without such efforts, according to Kress, competing with other regions for premier talent would just be a long-bet.

Biggest Challenge: Affordable Housing for Workforce

The establishment of the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance (NOVA EDA) by ten jurisdictions last year was a testament to authorities’ commitment to winning that competition.

Though only a couple of months old, the Alliance is now readying to launch an aggressive sales pitch. Its strategy will rely on campaigning on social media platforms popular among the young talent. This will help in building a strong presence at tech festivals and helping organize e-sports competitions.

However, the region is losing more than half of all graduates from its colleges’ relevant programs elsewhere in the country. And the primary reason why is high living costs.

Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, another major propellant of the region’s pursuit of young tech talent, is aware of this.

“If you don’t solve the housing problem and transportation, you don’t fully solve workforce,” says Julie Coons, its president.

According to the World Population Review, Washington metropolitan area that comprises parts of Northern Virginia and Maryland, as well as downtown D.C., is where people face one of the highest costs of living in proportion to their incomes across the U.S.